A big part of why many IT executives are hired is associated with leading major change initiatives. Whether this is around digital transformation, organizational transformation or simply implementing a major CRM system, most of us are engaged to drive change within our organizations. But what is involved in leading major change initiatives? Here are some important components in driving strategic change.
Involve people in the process of change. They need to feel that this is their change, not yours! This is best accomplished by ensuring that they understand on a very visceral and personal level why the change matters to them. Most people are altruistic and want to do what’s right for the organization. But all of us have personal agendas. When you align the organization’s agenda with the individual’s agenda you develop a powerful motivation to get things done. Remember, change is hard and very uncomfortable. Even people who are in a difficult situation can find it easier to deal with their current misery than to risk making the required changes. Therefore, people need to understand on a personal level what’s in it for them. What is the potential upside of the required change? Is there opportunity for promotion? Additional responsibility? Greater impact? What is the downside of not changing? Will the company go Chapter 11 or get acquired? Will your function be outsourced? In order to drive transformational change, you need to get people’s personal buy-in.
Get the right people on the bus and the wrong people off the bus! How many of you know you have people in your organizations that are a cancer? You know they are undermining the changes you are trying to implement with snide remarks and bad attitudes? How many of you are allowing this cancer to fester and grow instead of surgically removing it?
It’s also important to realize that change is a marathon. People can grow weary. It’s important to break the change effort into bite-sized actionable chunks. If you are trying to play a Par 5 golf hole, you can’t see the flag from the tee. You need to select places along the course where you can get your ball on the fairway, reach the green, etc. Change is like that, too. Create attainable milestones so that people can see progress and not grow weary and discouraged. When your team achieves major milestones, slow down long enough to celebrate their success. Help them know how important this accomplishment was. Communicate the progress your team is making to all your key stakeholders. Track the progress and make sure people know that you are on track to accomplish the ultimate goals of the change initiative.
Finally help people understand that change is a constant. The days of change being “an initiative” are in the past. Change is the new business as usual. In a prior job, I once had an employee who was clearly weary ask me “Larry, when will things go back to normal?” My answer was that evolution is constant and that change is the new normal! Everything in life is either growing or dying…we just need to determine which one we choose.
Larry Bonfante is an award-winning CIO with 35 years of experience in the IT industry. He most recently served as CIO of the USTA. As the founder of CIO Bench Coach, he has served as an executive coach and trusted adviser to executives at some of the most prestigious companies in the world. You can contact him on email at Larry@ciobenchcoach.com and follow him on Twitter at @bonfante.